Sunday, November 17, 2013

A New Computer

By Bixyl Shuftan

In Spring 2007, shortly before I began going to Second Life on a regular basis, I was in need of a new machine. At the time, new PCs were coming with not the fairly reliable version of Windows at the time, but Vista. I'd knew it both by it's reputation, in addition to someone I knew who had the misfortune of getting the relatively new system. And it was buggy as heck. It was clearly released before the bugs were worked out, resulting in the joke of early users being known as "gamma testers."

"Vista is the best advertising Mac has," people joked. And it was more than just a joke. I'd grown up with an Apple 2 in the house, and with "Beastia" making computer users tear their hair out, it was time to go "back to Mac." So going to the local Apple place, got an iMac. It was faster than the PC I'd been using, both on World of Warcraft and Second Life. And this was the machine that I began as a reporter inworld, and then editor.

But over time, Second Life was updated, as well as other things across the Internet. The new kind of official viewers didn't work so well, and neither did the later versions of Phoenix and then Firestorm. And after server-side baking, things began to slow up more. I was eventually at the point the viewer would freeze momentarily in the middle of me typing a sentence.

So after more than six years, it was becoming clear I was in need of a new computer if I wanted to go about inworld without trouble. So over time, I began saving up for one, one with a better graphics card so lag would be less of a problem. In short, I needed a "gamer PC," which would cost more. And as a blue-collar worker in real life with a mortgage, getting the money would take time. It's no wonder to me why many Second Life users continue to cling to old machines rather than get something new.

One catch, I'd need to have the old Windows 7 installed as Windows 8 was having problems not unlike Vista. The person who'd talked to me about his seemingly endless problems with "Beastia" some years before had recently gotten a computer with the new Windows. And once again, he'd gotten burned. After a few months of use, the machine locked up, and the local computer shop couldn't save it. He had to get another.

It took some time to save the money, but eventually, I got my new computer. My celebration had to wait though as the first one I got didn't work. Sending it back to get a new one would take about a week and a half. But once the new machine was hooked up to the Internet, I was in business.

I'd had experience with using PCs at the workplace, plus when I owned one a few years before. So I didn't have as much of a "culture shock" as a Mac owner. Connecting into Second Life, the results were a big improvement. The annoying "chat lag" was gone, at least the other kind I was getting. And the scenery loaded faster. For instance, when dropping by at Luskwood on the older computer, the appearance of the place and avatars could take twenty minutes to load. Dropping by on the new one, everything and everyone could be clearly seen less than five minutes. World of Warcraft also ran a bit faster, though not as big a difference. As time went on, the differences weren't always as big as my first look at Luskwood with the Gamer PC, but they remained better.

So my Second Life experience was saved. Not sure how much longer it could have gone on with the older machine. A number of friends have taken an interest in Inworldz, which happens to have less of a lag problem than Second Life, and my older computer can handle the place okay. So it's possible I'd end up spending more time there.

And since it's a PC, some of my virtual neighbors have been asking me to join them in "World of Tanks," "War Thunder," and other MMOs that require a machine with Windows to run. So will be joining them some, and I just might write a review on a few.

It's not completely without problems. I'll still crash with it once in a while. Curiously, I'll crash while going about on InWorldz with it, while on the Mac I seldom do. Some friends tell me unless the graphics card is just right, Second Life may have some issues with it. Guess you can't win them all.

As for the iMac, I'll still be using it. It's better with editing screenshots than the PC is, such as lightening up a screenshot that's too dark, or cropping someone's text. And as I mentioned, it can handle Inworldz just fine. So I'll still be using it. Although it can't run Second Life without stalling from lag, the old machine still has plenty of life left. But unless the PC is down for a few days with a problem, chances are when you see me, I'll be using the new PC.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sha's Thoughts: Cyclopean Pursuit

By Becky Shamen

Scattered through the books in the library, one will find certain phrases, verses, paragraphs or chapters that make a lasting, lifetime impression. We remember them word for word, what book they came from or even what page they are on. In unexpected moments, they come back to our attention. They may even have a strong effect on the direction of our lives. 
In a book titled, "Eternal Words", The Immortal Series, Book IV, by Author/Teacher J. J. Dewey, there is just such a passage. In this somewhat science fiction story, the main character meets and works with an individual who is the most powerful being on the planet. Like a Wizard of Oz, few people have ever seen this being's face. All that changes, when Joe gets to see his face for the first time. On page 241, we read these two paragraphs: 

  I thought about his comments on beauty as I gazed upon his face having, not two, but one great eye in the center of the forehead! This was the only visible feature that set him apart from the features of a regular human.

   My reaction to this sight was much different than I would have previously guessed it would be.  The reason was that any previous image I had seen of a one eyed person, or Cyclops. was portrayed as abnormal and subhuman in beauty, but this being was different. Instead of being abhorred by the difference, I found myself captivated by it.  It's difficult to describe, but his face was put together in such a way that the eye became a royal diadem, a thing of great beauty, like the jewel in the lotus.

 I can see how it would be difficult to describe. Even with a great imagination, it is hard to picture this in my imagination. I had to, as an artist, get something on paper.  Here (left) is an early attempt at photoshopping a photo of my old friend Rick. He's a friendly, soulful guy and the loss of one eye doesn't take away any of that. If anything, it would peobably make him even more popular than he already is. Picture him, at your next party. There would be a crowd, gathered around him, captivated by every word that came out of the one eyed guy's mouth. Nobody would even notice that brand new dress,  you bought for the party.
While exploring Star Journey Island, Joshua got a free package of Mardi Gras masks. Instead of being worn like a face tattoo, these were flat objects with a texture on them. The object is worn on the nose and gives the impression of being a form fitting mask. Because of the 3D shape of the face, it's hard to create an avatar with only one eye, using skin or tattoo textures. This technique seemed like a good way of doing so.
A photograph of an eye was chopped, mirrored, and pieced back together, to create a symetrical, single eye and then was uploaded to Second Life. The texture was applied to a prim, attached to Sha's nose. Then the texture and prim both got sized to fit her face.The result was photographed and touched up, to smoothly blend it together, for the above image. Not bad for a first attempt. We'll have to experiment more with the idea. As is, we begin to see that it might be possible to create a beautiful cyclops. Perhaps the SL Newser could host a contest, challenging SL artists to create the most beautiful cyclops. The contest would be open to everyone, unless you are an Argonaut, calling himself Noman.
Becky "Sha" Shamen